Gianna Putrino with some of her pastel drawings at the Anthony Brunelli Gallery in Binghamton, New York.
Waking Up To Reality:
The Anxiety Series
with Mike Foldes
Founder, Managing Editor
RAGAZINE: What were your artistic influences growing up in Endicott, NY? Are, or were, your parents artists, or involved in the arts? Did you take art classes in high school, or did your decision to major in art and art history come when you got to Oswego?
GIANNA PUTRINO: Growing up in Endicott, I wasn’t really exposed to much art in my daily life. My parents are not artists, but I did grow up surrounded by a very musical and theatrical family. Both of my parents were taught to play instruments as children. My mother’s family is all very musical and my sister is a dancer. As for visual artists, my aunt is an elementary school art teacher for the Binghamton City School District in Broome County. I always loved drawing and had a talent for copying pictures and illustrations from books. My first real exposure to fine art came in high school. I fortunately attended Union Endicott High School, which had a very extensive art department in comparison to most area high schools. I was able to try my hand at a variety of different art-making methods, from photography to digital illustration, to painting and drawing. It was in high school where I decided that I wanted to pursue art as a career and discovered my love for drawing. I chose to go to SUNY Oswego because it was an affordable school with an art program that I saw myself fitting into well.
Q) How did you happen to go to Oswego, and who were major influences on your work there?
A) I decided on Oswego after visiting my cousin who was attending there and I fell in love with the campus. I had a friend show me around the art department and I discovered a professor there named Juan Perdiguero. I fell in love with his work immediately and decided that I wanted to learn as much as I could from him. He was the figure drawing professor and head of the drawing department and I signed up for as many classes as I could with him. I fell in love with figure drawing and soon became disappointed with a lack of higher level drawing courses available because Oswego’s fine arts department was so small. Once I had exhausted all of the drawing courses that Oswego had to offer I then began independent studies with Juan. It was then that I truly began to make strides and develop my identity as an artist. He helped me a great deal and I owe a lot of my successes to his teachings. Though being in such a small program limited the amount of classes available to upper level students, we were blessed with a lot of individualized attention and guidance from professors throughout the department, so for that I am extremely grateful.
Gianna Putrino / Anxiety Series
Q) On your website you explain that the images in your recent show at the Anthony Brunelli Gallery in Binghamton are representative of efforts to examine your own anxieties (as evidenced by nail-biting). Is this series a continuation of other images of a similar nature, or is it pretty much a stand-alone collection?
A) The anxiety series is a standalone series that I had done for my senior BFA showcase at Oswego. The Identity series is somewhat a continuation from that anxiety series, but instead of self-exploration I explored the identities and self-perceptions of my peers and fellow artists at this transitional period of life from student into adulthood.
Q) You mentioned that each piece takes about 3 weeks to complete and that you work on several at a time, with the series taking about 4 months to complete. Were you able to work out your personal issues with the completion of the series, or is the “art therapy” not entirely complete? (CORRECT ME if I got that timeline wrong, thanks!)
A) While I was working on the anxiety series I did a lot of research on the condition and in doing so it helped me to understand a lot about the science behind what was happening to me. Once I was able to disconnect the emotional aspect of my anxiety and look at it from a scientific perspective I was able to have some control over it. The cause of a large amount of my anxiety during that time was the fear of graduating, completing my senior showcase, transitioning into the real world and the fear of failing at it all. The anxiety series was my first ever series and at the time it was the hardest artistic feat I had created for myself. Once I completed the series (without failing) I made the self-discovery that I could work hard, I could stay motivated, I could accomplish my goals, and it made me a stronger person. So by both researching for the project and completing the project I had overcome a large part of what made me anxious. So yes the “art therapy” had done its job.
Q) At first glance, these pieces appear to be done in charcoal, but are actually painted with pastels. How and why did you select pastels?
A) I actually did not want to work in pastels at first. I originally wanted to work in charcoal and began my first drawing in charcoal. I quickly realized that the paper I was using was not quite so forgiving with the charcoal and I began to experiment with black, white and gray pastels. I fell in love with the process and the quality that the pastels gave to the drawing and it’s been history ever since.
Q) Do you draw much in developing the images before moving to pastels, or do you go directly to the paper?
A) For large drawings I draw primarily from photographs so I do a lot of my compositional work with a camera and during my photoshoots with my models. I take hundreds of photos and spend a lot of time narrowing them down and choosing my compositions. Once I decide on my final images I then transfer them directly onto the large paper. I first start with a basic line drawing with the help of a simple grid. I then erase the grid and go in with the pastel laying down the very basic values first. As the drawing develops I layer the pastel and try to render detail evenly throughout the entire drawing without concentrating too much on specific areas to help keep the consistency of the drawing.
Gianna Putrino / Identity Series
Q) You mention in your Artist Statement that you “compose drawings of a haunting realism.” Historically, I would put Pieter Bruegel the Elder, possibly some of Albrecht Dürer in that class, along with Goya, and with a stretch, Francis Bacon. Have you explored or expressed your anxieties, this “haunting realism,” in previous work, or in Life drawing?
A) I have not explored my anxieties in previous work because most of my previous work was all extremely academic and left very little room for self-expression. However, that academic and traditional foundation was completely necessary in order for me to build upon and move on and be able to then create expressive work.
Q) What is your opinion of more abstract styles of art/painting? Have you done more abstract pieces or is realism your realm?
A) I have done some abstract work where I distort the representational world, but I stay far away from the nonrepresentational. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, it just doesn’t make enough sense in my mind in order for me to express myself in that way. I admire people who are able to create and think so abstractly, it seems like such a free way of expression that I cannot wrap my head around.
Q) Do you intend to continue to explore “anxiety” in your work, or have you “worked through it?” What does the following image mean to you, in terms of expressing anxiety?
A) I believe I have worked through my anxiety and don’t plan on continued exploration of anxiety through my art, unless it becomes prevalent in my life again. As for the work by Ryan Wurst, I feel a a large amount of distress and strong feelings of suffocation. It however does not resonate as “anxiety” to me, but everyone experiences anxiety differently and people have all sorts of different triggers, so as long as it is meaningful to and connects deeply with the artist, that is all that matters.
Q) What’s next for Gianna Putrino?
A) I do have another show coming up with the Broome County Arts Council that will be up for the month of October so I am still slaving away in the studio preparing for that exhibition. I am hoping to be in graduate school within a year to begin working towards my MFA, but right now I am just riding the wave and seeing where life takes me.
Q) Is there anything you’d like to add that we haven’t covered here?
A) I think we got it all . Thank you for the wonderful questions and for extending the opportunity to me.
RAGAZINE: You’re welcome, and best of luck to you in your career!